• Normally, my mother-in-law celebrates with us. (E+)Source: E+
The Raya theme for this year will be bring a plate, wear your face masks and maintain social distancing.
By
Raidah Shah Idil

22 May 2020 - 10:17 AM  UPDATED 22 May 2020 - 10:17 AM

“Is the virus still here?” my five-year-old daughter asked me recently.

“Yes. It still is.”

She frowned. “I miss Nenek and Peta.”

Due to the overseas travel restrictions in both Australian and Malaysia, my girls are upset that both their grandmothers are in Sydney. Because of that, and for so many other reasons, Eid will be different this year. We call it Hari Raya in Malaysia.

Normally, my mother-in-law celebrates with us. That always means an assortment of delicious Eid food, with her delicious mutton biryani being the highlight. When we’re lucky enough to have my mum visiting us for Raya from Sydney, then we have her Raya additions to our menu – lontong and chicken rendang. Two grandmothers equals three very happy and very well-fed grandchildren.

This Eid, we will have neither grandmother. This means I’ll be doing the cooking. I don’t have the skills to cook up my mother-in-law’s epic mutton biryani, but I hope to cook a tasty mutton rendang. The perfect fusion between my Malay heritage and my husband’s Mamak (Indian Muslim) heritage.

Because restrictions are easing, we’ve invited a few friends and their kids to our home for Raya.

Because restrictions are easing, we’ve invited a few friends and their kids to our home for Raya. They’re mostly expatriates who don’t have family members here. The Raya theme for this year will be bring a plate, wear your face masks and maintain social distancing. Not the warmest approach, but hopefully a safer one.

Technically, am I going to insist on my guests wearing face masks? I will definitely try. How are they going to eat? Keep it on until the food is served? I don’t know. This is all very new territory. So many of our most comforting religious rituals have been put on hold in the interest of safety. There are no congregational prayers in the mosque for the five obligatory prayers, for the special Ramadan-only tarawih prayers, and there won’t be any Eid prayers, either.

I will miss going to the mosque with my husband and children for Eid prayer. Although there have been Eids where it’s been too hard for us to get out of the house in time with such little ones, the ritual has been a comforting one. Part of me is relieved that there isn’t the expectation to get three little ones under five dressed, washed, fed and emotionally regulated enough to get to the mosque in one piece. The rest of me is just sad we’re missing out on a routine I’ve participated in since I was a little girl. My daughters loved putting money into the mosque donation box, and also loved receiving Raya money packets from kind aunties and grandmothers sitting near us at the mosque.

Speaking of Raya money packets, that tradition will remain the same, even if so many other rituals are different.

Speaking of Raya money packets, that tradition will remain the same, even if so many other rituals are different. My children will receive their Eid money packets. We’ll play the special Eid takbir on the TV. We’ll still wear our Raya best. A fun new addition is a Eid postal gift collective set up by one of our friends. We might not be able to see everyone in person, but we can still post gifts to them. We have to limit the number of guests we have over for Raya, especially if they have little children.

Social distancing between small children is going to be hard, if not impossible. My two little girls haven’t met their friends since lockdown started in mid-March. My eight-month-old little boy doesn’t have any friends yet, so I can count on him to stick to me. I plan to explain to my girls not to rush and hug their friends on Raya, but to keep a one metre distance between them. And then I can nervously laugh at the futility when they actually meet their excited friends and all rules fly out the window. This might be why many families are choosing to spend Eid/Raya through virtual Zoom meet-ups – why tempt fate? Indeed. That’s a good question.

My family of origin is scattered all over the globe and I miss them most during special occasions.

Even though my husband and I are both introverts (with extrovert children), after a solid two months of seeing only each other and his workmates….it would be really, really good to see our friends again. I wish I could see my family too.

My family of origin is scattered all over the globe. Diaspora is in our blood, and I miss them the most during special occasions like Eid. My divorced parents are in different countries – my mother is in Australia while my father is in Singapore. I have one brother in London, one in Sydney, one in Perth, and my two sisters in Sydney. Although we are all so far away from each other, I keep our Raya memories close to my heart. Here’s hoping that in the near future, the travel restrictions will ease so we can see each other again.

In the meantime, let’s hope my mutton rendang turns out well.

Raidah Shah Idil is a freelance writer.

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